Along the Columbia River (Aug 5 2016)


Tillamook Bay is quite large, with several small towns along it. It looks like it would be good for kayaking, plus I think all the bays have good clamming and crabbing. We might have to come back during the crabbing season.

It’s a non-stop drive up to Fort Stevens, past more seaside resort towns, estuaries, rivers… Oregon is one wet state!

A turnoff takes you to the State Park and the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s incredibly chilly here. A guy in the parking lot is all bundled up with waders, knit cap, waterproof parka, etc. and ready to go fishing IN the river. Brrr.

I guess this is a great birding spot, too, with hunting allowed during the season. (“Do not shoot towards the land,” warns a sign. Yikes. Sounds like a dangerous place to visit during the season!)

FortClatsop3A different turnoff from 101 goes inland to Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark ended their journey and set up their winter camp. They traveled all the way from St. Louis out to the Pacific Coast (1804-1806) back when Thomas Jefferson was president and looking at the map, it seems like they were on the north side of the Columbia River, getting to the Pacific on the Washington side. They named that Cape Disappointment and reading their logs, they were completely NOT taken by their destination. Bitch, bitch, bitch.

There was “Dismal Nitch” and “the steepest worst and highest mountain I ever assended.” Lewis was especially a sourpuss. I am not surprised he committed suicide a few years later. “It was actually because he had financial problems,” Big Dog mansplains and I think, “Maybe he had financial problems because he was such a downer.”

At the same time, I am sure it was really tough for the travelers. Of the 108 days they spent at the fort, it rained every day but 12, people suffered from colds, flu and other ailments, clothing rotted, fleas infested bleeding, there was little food and I guess because they had to be indoors so much, they had plenty of time to write their many complaints. There is a collection of artifacts and replicas in the visitor center, and next to it, a re-created fort where docents show you some of the stuff they had to do to survive — cutting logs for log cabins, making buckskin clothing…


Astoria, another port town and the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies, is a short distance away and the main town at the mouth of the Columbia River. As a working seaport, you see all sorts of giant, colorful tankers heading up river. Sunset Magazine did a nice story about this town so you can read all about it there.

We do not stop but keep going towards Portland, stopping at a wayside for a quick lunch in the RV.

Is that Mt. Hood off in the distance? It’s the tallest mountain in Oregon, rising to 11,250 feet, so it might be.


We stop at Big Dog’s childhood friend’s house near Mount Tabor, a very nice residential area in an older part of town.

My friends had told me that I would probably like Portland and I wish I had had more time to explore the town, but after dinner with F and C, we have to move onwards to Salem, to J’s place.

J is Big Dog’s friend from his university days. A potter at that time, J helped Big Dog on some construction work at his Victorian.

We get to his enclave and Bailey immediately takes to him! Since we started taking her on our trips, many people have complimented us on our “beautiful” “gorgeous” “cute” dog/puppy and many kids have asked if they could pet her (adults, too!) so she has gotten used to being touched by strangers (without growling or biting!) but you can tell that she is just putting up with it: her body is rigid and she walks away the first moment she gets. But with J, it was different. As we drive to his home, she has her head out the window and he comes up and starts playing with her. She doesn’t even flinch. Next thing you know, she’s wagging her way into his home as if she’s known him forever!



Dunes and Dairy Farms (Aug 4 2016)


In the morning, after coffee, we take a walk up a trail to the dunes. I wanted to see the dunes up close and with the unpredictable weather, who knew what we’d see from the overlook. A short trail takes you right into the silky dunes. Unlike the dunes at Death Valley, these flow right out of the woods. There are also evergreens growing in patches inside the dunes here and there. The dunes are tall and soft and Bailey jumps around with excitement. It would have been fun to have had a sled to go down the steep dunes!

OregonDunes2OregonDunes3OregonDunes10It’s close to noon when we leave camp, passing more creeks, lakes and other watery things. The Umpqua River empties into Winchester Bay, home to the Umpqua Lighthouse (which we blow off, since it is very foggy right at the coast). The Umpqua River Bridge is another McCullough bridge and a “swing-span” bridge.

SiuslawRiverBridge2Our first stop is Florence, a pretty tourist town along the Siuslaw River. (Another McCullough bridge going across it!) Old Town is along the river, with shops and restaurants, many on the waterfront.


There aren’t a whole lot of legal pot shops in Oregon but every town, no matter how small, seems to have at least one. The other thing that is unique is that at gas stations they have to pump your gas, by law, and prices are a lot less than California (maybe because there is no sales tax?) In Florence, we stop at one gas station with inexpensive diesel but it is bio diesel and the attendant isn’t sure if it’s okay for our rig (we think so) and tells us to go up the street for #2 diesel. (There is also something called PUC diesel but apparently that’s only for commercial vehicles.)

We need to stop for lunch and turn off to the Darlingtonia State Wayside. It’s a lushly wooded area with boardwalks going over a mass of Darlingtonias. These are alien-shaped carnivorous plants, also known as cobra lilies. They’re probably great for bug control!

Darlingtonia2Darlingtonia4Speaking of plants, this part of the coast must be good flower growing land because there are many floral farms and honor stands with bouquets along the road.

AlseaBayBridge2Alsea Bay in Waldport has another big bridge but this one was a new bridge built in 1991. The old one was a Conde McCullough bridge, built in 1936, and it was the first and only large coastal bridge designed by him to be replaced. At the south end is the Alsea Bridge Interpretive Center — we had to poke our heads in to see the historical displays and bridge miniatures.

We just drive by Yaquina, Newport, Nye Beach, Agate Beach and other tourist spots. The weather just doesn’t make us want to stop. Unlike Cape Foulweather. How can you resist a place with a name like that! Apparently, Captain Cook stopped here when winds were 100mph. Today, it is just mostly fogged in.

Crossing more McCullough bridges — Rocky Creek Bridge, Depoe Bay Bridge — we drive through the town of Depoe Bay with the world’s smallest navigable harbor, then through Lincoln City, another congested town, then through the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and North Pole. We keep rolling right through Neskowin and Beaver (“Wouldn’t it be terrible if your family name was Beaver and they named you Harry?”) to Munson Creek Falls. A short drive down a dirt road takes you to the trailhead. From there, it’s about a quarter mile walk through Sitka spruce and Western red cedar to the highest waterfall on the coast, at 319 feet. It’s a pretty waterfall, in a jungly little canyon.


We were way hungry by now and couldn’t wait to get to Tillamook for some food! Once there (an old-timey logging town feel) we find the Pelican Brewery at the north end of town and go in for beers and food. The beers are good and so is the food – we have the smoked oyster roll and a cup of clam chowder – but the service needs some tweeking.

Breweries are big in Oregon. This state has the most craft breweries per capita; Portland has more than any other city; there are more than 194 brewing companies in 72 towns.

Just out of town is the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It’s a large touristy place, with throngs all sampling their cheeses (again, cheddar and jack only, plus curds) We taste everything and buy another bag of curds. We’re really getting into them!

I thought the Tillamook people were one company but it seems like it’s a dairy association, like Humboldt Creamery used to be. Out here, almost every farmer is a dairy farmer and there are plenty of happy black and white dairy cows.

TillamookAirMuseum2Now it was really getting late. A few miles ahead, I spot a sign for a county park — the Kilchis River County Campground.

It’s a nice county park on the Kilchis River with several camp sites but when we find out that they want nearly $40 for the night, we bail. There’s a turnout on the road not too far away, so we just park there for the night. No one disturbs us, it’s quiet with hardly any traffic and we have plenty of privacy in the dark.

Up the Oregon Coast (Aug 3 2016)

SouthernOregonCoastWe just got to Arcata a few days ago but Big Dog wants to go on a mini-roadtrip already! He’s a restless sleeper, but maybe he’s just restless, period.

We mull the idea of going inland to Whiskeytown and Lassen, but it’s probably way too hot now, so we decide to head north on 101 for a while.

It’s overcast as we leave Arcata and the traffic is heavier with all the roadwork going on. Not to mention the summer travelers. The Trees of Mystery roadside attraction near Crescent City has throngs of visitors.

Beyond Crescent City, it is new road for me and Sprockets. Just beyond it is the Oregon border, but even before we make it to the border, we see our first billboard for a legal pot place. It’s called High Tides.

“Wonder if there’ll be tons of Big Box Pot Shops?”

“With names like Dave’s Doobtown, Stoneyland, Mary Jane’s Little Shop of Budz, Canna Emporium…”

Highway 101 as it goes along the 363-mile coast of Oregon is the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway and was designated as an “All-American Road” in 2002.

There’s a Visitor Center just beyond the border where we stop to get a bunch of maps and info. Bailey can’t go into the building but Oregon is a pretty dog-friendly state and even here, they have set out water bowls for the mutts.

We have to wait to get back on 101 – there’s a convoy of firetrucks, EMT vehicles and police cars, all flashing lights. It’s a parade of sorts. When the official vehicles pass by, we get into the line of regular cars but a big truck in front of us pulls into the left lane, so we do too and slowly drive parallel to the official vehicles. We weren’t supposed to! Now, we have to move back in – right into the parade! Crazy.

They all turn off at a memorial park just before the town of Brookings – Harbor where we stop for a bite.

Our first stop after lunch is just before the Thomas Creek Bridge, said to be the highest one in Oregon, crossing 345 feet above the creek. I read that there is a viewpoint south of the bridge so we stop there but trees block everything and there doesn’t seem to be a path to anything. Strike out.

Whalerock2The Samuel Boardman State Park runs 12 miles of coastline and there are little turnouts where you can see interesting natural features. It’s cold and windy and off-and-on foggy. The rocky coast doesn’t feel too different from parts of Northern California. From Whaleshead Trailhead you can see an island that looks like a whale. We also get to see Natural Bridges Cove and Arch Rock.

Many rivers come out to the Pacific on the Oregon coast, so there are just as many bridges. One of the famous bridge designers was a man named Conde McCullough and we come to the first one of his bridges at Gold Beach, where the Rogue River empties into the ocean. This is the I.L. Patterson Memorial Bridge, the first in the US to be built with prestressed concrete.


Port Orford is the oldest town on the Oregon coast (est. 1851) and a fishing village with no harbor. Vessels are hoisted from the water!


There are also many, many lighthouses on the coast, probably because so much of it is rocky and maybe also because up here, the seas tend to be rougher. But with the crappy weather, we did not spend any time either driving to the lighthouses or looking at them.

We do drive into Bandon Old Town, another rustic seaside town, stopping by the Face Rock Creamery. Like the Loleta Cheese Factory in Humboldt, you can taste many samples of their cheddar and jack cheeses. Some were quite tasty but we wound up buying a bag of cheese curds and a bright red wax-encased summer sausage. Should be good road food.

Coos Bay/North Bend is a bustling little city, with another McCullough bridge: the Conde McCullough Memorial Bridge that spans the Bay. It was the longest bridge along the coast when it was built in 1936.

CondeMcCulloughMemorialBridge2The Oregon Dunes, a huge 40-mile National Recreation Area, starts after Coos Bay and you see a bunch of ATV rental places as you approach the Dunes. We pull into the Elk Creek Campground that butts up against the dunes and leads to the John Dellenback Dunes Trail. There’s a nice open area with empty sites around for us. Most of the campers were on the dunes side, in the forested areas and there were several big families so it was good that we were off on our own.

Bailey, free from her leash at last, runs around and claims the spot as ours, growling at other people and dogs walking by.

“No trespassing! No Trespassing!”